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Snippet Contents:

The Minister for Finance stated that Ireland has the fastest growing economy in the European Union. He did not give much context or detail on what this means and there was no question about whether it is good in itself. When we boast about having the fastest growing economy in Europe, we would do well to remember that we also have the fastest growing child poverty rate in Europe. We should be looking closely at why matters are working out that way.
The markets like us to show growth in order to restore their confidence in us. This is what the Government is aiming for, regardless of the cost. Its policies are very much market driven. During the boom times, planning was market and developer driven and we know where that got us. Given the battering that neoliberalism took during the crisis, it is difficult to understand why it continues to thrive. The Government boasted that the budget represented the end of austerity but until we claw back the serious inroads made into public services and the living standards of ordinary people, austerity will prevail. Inequality is rising and there is little doubt that the austerity of the last six years has seriously eroded public services. It will be a huge challenge for any Government to row back and restore what we had previously.
The Minister, Deputy Noonan, is a bright and able individual. I like him, although I do not agree with him. He makes his arguments very well but so do people like Mr. Michael Taft. I would like to pick the latter's brains in order to present the matter from another perspective. In October, Mr. Taft carried out a budget analysis using data from the Government's budget report, adjusted for inflation and IMF projections for population increases in Ireland. He found that total spending on public services, social transfers and investment will fall by more than 9% by 2018. Funding for schools, hospitals, policing, transportation, enterprise supports and other public services will fall by more than 8%. Government investment, which is vital to our infrastructure and our attractiveness as a place to do business, will fall by 15.4% by 2018. As he points out, this is the most irrational of all cuts from the point of view of economic growth.